The death toll in Macau from Typhoon Hato rose to nine, the government said on Friday, after rescuers found another body in an underground carpark and authorities scrambled to deal with the storm’s aftermath and mounting public criticism. Typhoon Hato, a number 10 force typhoon, pummelled the world’s biggest gambling hub on Wednesday, causing extensive damage, a near city-wide blackout, water supply disruptions and serious flooding.
Amidst mounting public outrage at the government’s handling of the storm, including the perceived failure to adequately warn residents as the storm approached, Macau’s leader, Fernando Chui, apologised and said the head of Macau’s weather observatory, Fong Soi-kun, would step down. Even as nearby Hong Kong shut down and closed financial markets for the day, Macau’s authorities failed to raise a sufficiently high typhoon warning signal, critics said, leading many residents to go to work the same day the storm hit.
Typhoon Hato, with destructive winds of more than 200 kph (124 mph), was the worst storm since 1968 to hit Macau. Authorities have struggled to restore order in the city of 600,000, with some residents having to queue for water from fire hydrants. Mounds of rubbish and debris including toppled trees were still being cleared from the streets, and some buildings required extensive repairs after windows imploded in the storm.
Many of Macau’s large casinos were relying on back-up generators. Macau has been rapidly transformed since its return from Portuguese to Chinese rule in 1999 into a gambling hub many times larger than Las Vegas, with major US casinos piling in. Infrastructure, however, has mostly failed to keep pace with its development despite the rise of a wave of glitzy new casino resorts.